TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Senate Rules Committee voted today to pass Senate Bill 1580 (SB 1580), which would allow healthcare providers and payors to refuse to provide healthcare services to Floridians based on their “moral,” “ethical,” or “religious” beliefs. Additionally, the bill would prevent employers from taking any adverse actions against any employee that refuses to provide care based on their “moral,” “ethical,” or “religious” beliefs –thus forcing employers to retain employees who refuse to do their jobs.
This bill is overly broad and includes any healthcare provider or facility licensed under a dozen different statutes, including doctors, nurses, pharmacies, hospitals, mental health providers, medical transport services, clinical lab personnel, nursing homes, and more.
Additionally, the bill allows providers to refuse to provide any type of “healthcare service,” broadly defined as including, but not limited to, medical research, medical procedures, testing, diagnosis, referral, dispensing medications, therapy, recordkeeping, and “any other care or service.”
The bill broadly defines healthcare payors to include any employer, as well as any health insurer, health plan, HMO, or “any other entity that pays for, or arranges for payment of, any health care service.”
The ACLU of Florida opposes this bill and its companion bill, House Bill 1403 (HB 1403). Both bills have passed all their assigned committees and are set to reach a full floor vote within their respective chambers next week.
Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel of the ACLU of Florida responded with the following:
“This bill is shocking in its breadth, vagueness, and government overreach into the private sector and regulated businesses. It goes far beyond any alleged claims of religious freedom, as it applies not just to religious objections but also to ‘moral’ and ‘ethical’ beliefs. Does the legislature really want to force private businesses to retain employees who refuse to do their job on the basis of a subjectively held alleged ‘ethical’ or ‘moral’ belief?
“What does this even mean? There is no definition of ‘moral’ or ‘ethical’ in the bill. Who determines what constitutes a sincerely held moral or ethical belief, and more importantly, why should access to health care be denied based on such vague, imprecise, and subjective terms? We have grave concerns that this bill will lead to discriminatory healthcare practices and that LGBTQ+ individuals, people of color, and those most marginalized in our communities will be disproportionately harmed.
“What if someone’s ethical or moral belief is that women should not have babies unless they are married? Or that poor people shouldn’t have more than one child? Or if they believe it’s unethical to bring a child into the world given overpopulation and climate change? Can they refuse to provide prenatal health care to that pregnant person? Can they refuse to assist in labor and delivery? Can their employer refuse to provide health insurance to cover pregnancy and labor and delivery? Can a nurse refuse to return calls to the patients or schedule follow-up appointments? Or what if a pharmacist is morally opposed to preventing pregnancy, can they refuse to sell the morning-after pill or refill a prescription for birth control? These and many similar issues beg the question of whether we really want to provide a state-sanctioned license to discriminate based on someone’s subjective moral and ethical beliefs.
“This legislature needs to think long and hard about the potential consequences of such a wide-ranging bill. This bill is so overly broad that it includes not just doctors, but any health care provider or facility licensed under a dozen different statutes, including doctors, nurses, pharmacies, hospitals, mental health providers, medical transport services, clinical lab personnel, and more. It applies to both public and private schools, colleges and universities. It applies to health insurers, employers, HMOs, and any other entity or employer that pays for or arranges payment of health care services. It applies to any type of ‘healthcare service,’ broadly defined as including, but not limited to, medical research, medical procedures, testing, diagnosis, referral, dispensing medications, therapy, recordkeeping, and ‘any other care or service.’
“Freedom of religion is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans. That freedom does not give any of us the right to harm others, and this bill goes far beyond religious objections and allows people to refuse to provide healthcare services based on alleged ‘ethical’ or ‘moral’ beliefs.
“Medical standards, not individual, subjective beliefs, should guide medical and health care services.”